Church forum advances two mayoral debates

Mayor Walsh addressed voters who turned out for a Dorchester-specific forum at First Parish Dorchester last Friday. Jennifer Smith photo.

Mayor Martin Walsh and City Councillor Tito Jackson pitched their wares to a gathering of about 75 people at First Parish Church on Meetinghouse Hill last Friday, with Walsh detailing a steady rate of improvement across the city and his challenger saying the administration’s priorities are out of synch with the strains of an unbalanced boom time.

The conversation at the Ward 15 Committee event was relatively brief. Walsh spoke for just under half an hour and Jackson for 17 minutes, including questions from moderator Chris Lovett and short introductory and closing statements. Neither candidate was present for the other’s speaking portion.

Both men fielded questions on the state of housing in the city. “People are getting pushed out of the city of Boston every single day,” Jackson said. “People are losing their opportunity to grow up in the cities and communities they’ve lived in.” Noted Walsh: Construction of new dwellings is not keeping up with the flood of new residents, despite tens of thousands of units coming online.

The best way to address the housing crunch, Walsh said, is to build. “We have to put more supply on the market; the demand is there.”

Projects like Dot Block in Glover’s Corner, he added, would serve to bring hundreds of units into underdeveloped portions of the city and encourage investment in long-blighted areas.

“We have to work on communities who say ‘not in my backyard.’ We have to stop that,” the mayor said. “And some people don’t want housing built in their backyard. We have to, because if we don’t do that, people are going to be priced out of their neighborhoods.”

Walsh cited as positives the Community Preservation Act, which is expected to bring in $16-20 million annually, most of which could go toward affordable housing, and the revamped Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) guidelines, which require developers to commit up to 18 percent of their units to affordable housing and pay into an affordable housing fund.

Jackson said he wants the IDP requirement raised to 25 percent and again repeated his pledge to eliminate the Boston Planning and Development Agency. “We don’t plan in Boston,” he said. “We develop and talk about planning afterward.”

He criticized the Walsh administration for its pursuit of the General Electric headquarters through incentives — and an earlier proposed helipad — as well as for its closing of the Long Island Bridge.

“Amazon, GE, they’re going to be fine. Our question is how do we take care of the most vulnerable people in the city of Boston,” Jackson said.

The two candidates have signed off on two debates: One, sponsored by the RoxVote Coalition, was held Wednesday evening at Hibernian Hall after the Reporter went to press; the other, to be hosted by WGBH, is set for Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. with Boston Public Radio’s Jim Braude and Margery Eagan as moderators. The session will air live on 89.7 and WGBH 2.